By Stephan Wyatt
John Dehlin did not have to wait until long to find out his fate in the Mormon church.
In a letter dated February 9, John Dehlin, a long-time Katy resident now living in Logan, Utah, was excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- the Mormon church -- for "conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church." The widely publicized saga, which has been featured in The New York Times and NPR, came to a climactic, yet expected end. The Church's disciplinary council concluded that his excommunication stemmed from his teachings that conflicted with the church's position on a number points, including the historical legitimacy of the Book of Mormon and the church's claim of having direct authority from god.
John Dehlin is widely known for his groundbreaking Mormon Stories podcast that features Mormons from all walks of life, including notable scholars Richard Bushman and D. Michael Quinn, actively practicing polygamists, and openly gay members who, despite the church's position on gay marriage, identify themselves as Mormons. Confronting topics ranging from the church's historical ties to polygamy, historical anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, and African-Americans prohibited from holding the priesthood within the church until 1978, Dehlin's intent with Mormon Stories was to open dialogue with the entire spectrum of Mormons concerning potentially troubling issues facing the faith. For the last ten years his podcast has reached members and non-members of the Mormon church alike, bringing people together who were afflicted with similar doubts and questions.
In an interview yesterday with Doug Fabrizio on Radiowest KUER, John reacted to the aftermath of his disciplinary council hearing. When asked about the conditions of the event, Dehlin responded on the radio show that the proceedings were "[N]ot adversarial and not particularly loving. I guess you can say it was very procedural." He further added that he was shocked that excommunication proceedings were not brought up sooner, citing the fact that the podcast had been around for ten years.
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Despite being excommunicated, John Dehlin still strongly identifies with being Mormon. He unwaveringly stated yesterday on KUER that Mormonism is "[M]y heritage. It is my culture, it is my tribe, and it is my identity. I don't believe that my Mormonism can be taken from me by a process like this, just like in Judaism and Catholicism."
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints responded to Mr. Dehlin's public comments, stating that their decision to excommunicate him was not based on his position on the ordination of women in the priesthood and his favorable views on same-sex marriage, a position directly in conflict with the church's own view of marriage, but for "...publicly trying to convince others that the Church's teachings are in error."
Dehlin has every intention of continuing Mormon Stories regardless of the church's decision. He stated outside the building where the disciplinary committee took action Sunday that he will continue his focus on the faith's effect on family relationships. When asked during his radio interview yesterday whether or not he will ever return to the church, he suggested that it would be difficult to return to it in its present form.